And now for some more sobering reading. It is after all far from glamorous all the time, when the royals are on the job.
This is the second part of Joachim's trip to Laos. Divided into two parts: a general overview and an interview. The interview will be added to this post later.
Summary of article in Billed Bladet #48, 2014.
Written by Trine Larsen.
One of the more important things CARE is to help victims of the countless mines and other unexploded ordonances left after the war from 1964-73.
During that period two million tonnes of boms were dropped over Laos and
270 million, repeat million, bomblets from clusterbombs. (*) Of those an estimated 30% failed to detonate, but they are still unstable and dangerous!
In fact the six million inhabitants of Laos is matched by half a ton of unexploded explosives per person
scattered all over the country.
Joachim visited the Phou Khaou province, which is the hardest hit in regards to mines (**) and other unexploded devices. Here the organisation Lao National UXO is doing what they can to remove the devices they find - a monumental task!
Joachim push a botton and started a controlled explosion that removed three mines and afterwards he said: "It's terrifying and terrible. And that there are still so many unexploded bombs, mines and clusterbombs that endanger the population on a day to day basis is unbearable. It's a drop in the ocean. But now there are three less and that's after all a pretty good feeling".
Because there are so many crippled victims of mines and bomblets and because the country is so poor, many have to rely on homemade artificial legs, before eventually getting a properly made artifical limb. (***)
One of the clinics making those limbs is the Cope-centre which Joachim also visited.
And each year more are crippled by mines and bomblets. - Animals, livestock and people of all ages, especially smaller children because they are curious and careless.
The interview to follow.
(*) Clusterbomb. Basically a container with say 200 small bombs, each the size of a handgrenade which are scattered from an airplane or a helicopter.
Such bomblets, as they are called, can cover an area the size of a soccer field and devastate it. As a thumb rule you estimate that about 10 % will fail to detonate, but they are still dangerous. Another 10 % have delayed fuses, which puts the area out of bounds for up to several days and another 10 % are specifically designed as boobytraps that will detonate when handled. - Apart from being very efficient and devastating an area espeically against personel and soft targets, the area is also "polluted" for enemy use for a considerable period.
During the Cold War it was common for clusterbombs to also include chemical agents as well as explosives and that was a particularly nasty weapon!
(**) Mines. The mines in Laos predominantly differ from IED's used in say Afghanistan, which are now often homemade pressure mines. And also from mines used in say the fomer Jugoslavia, which were mainly claymore type mines or "jump-mines" and they were specifically designed to hit soldiers. The mines in Laos are mainly small footmines. Being very small they were often scattered from the air, sometimes by artillery shells. And they were designed to permanently "pollute" an area. I.e. few had time fuses, meaning that they would self-destruct at a given time. And made from plastic they are very resistant against the elements and as such in fine working order even decades after being scattered.
(***) Mine injuries. The injuries in Laos are mainly caused by footmines (and bomblets) that are designed to cripple rather than kill. A crippled person cannot fight (not in a country like Laos), have difficulty working manually, takes a long time to recover and is a huge drain on already limited resources. Apart from that there is the psycological effect of mines and bomblets. All it takes to trigger that effect when people enter say a large grove is one mine found there, just a single mine.
But footmines are particularly nasty in several ways. If you step on a footmine with the back of your foot, you lose half your leg and you are crippled.
If you step on such a footmine with the front part of your foot, you will lose half your foot, but fragments of bone and footwear will fly upwards and because you tend to lean forward into a step, the fragments will hit your face. It is estimated that about a quarter of Soviet soldiers stepping on such footmines during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan lost their sight as well as their foot. For males it gets even worse. A considerable percentage of men and boys stepping on footmines have their genitals damaged or destroyed from fragments. The smaller the male, the larger the risk...
In Afghanistan some mines were camuflaged as toys or ballpens (A ballpen back then being a sign of litteracy in rural areas) and they exploded when picked up. Don't know if such mines were used in Laos though.
Translation of the interview with Joachim, where he talks about CARE and his children: https://app.box.com/s/z7rhqtc1az70c3b0dfxw
I know perfectly well that few will ever read this, but for those who do I think this is worth the read.